Michigan Technological University and REL Inc., a technology company focused on material-process development, have been awarded a $2.1 million, three-year investment from Southwestern Energy Co. (SWN) to develop a compressed natural gas (CNG) tank for light-duty trucks.
The grant charges an interdisciplinary team of Michigan Tech researchers and REL engineers with designing, fabricating and testing a conformable CNG tank for use in light-duty trucks.
In order to free up space in the truck's bed, engineers from Michigan Tech and REL have been tasked with designing a tank that fits around existing vehicle components, can withstand the pressure of CNG, and can be easily and inexpensively fabricated.
Research will then shift to optimizing the material used for the tank. If existing materials don't have sufficient properties, new aluminum alloys may be developed.
“We want to get the tank under the bed,” says John Gargani, SWN vice president and general manager of strategy, performance and innovation. “Tanks today sit in the bed and take up a lot of the space, which is a drawback to the consumer.”